In which I decide I need to SAY IT AGAIN.

I woke up thinking about rape again (the way one does) and pondering my favorite insomnia-producing question: “What does it take to get people to believe rape survivors?”

Which is a variation on another question I think about, any time my blood pressure threatens to drop below aneurysm-inducing levels: “Why don’t men believe women?” The issues are related, not because men are never victims or women are never assailants, but because — okay, that’s for another post on another day. (And if you’re truly confused about the connection between rape culture and misogyny/sexism, well…you may wanna pause here to take a few deep, grounding breaths before reading on.)

#YesAllWomen, according to #NotAllMen
#YesAllWomen, according to #NotAllMen

I mean, How Very Nice that Heisman Trophy winner, top NFL pick, and accused rapist Jameis Winston is now giving inspiring speeches to middle schoolers, but wouldn’t it have been even nicer if the Tallahassee Police Department had believed the young woman who came to them 2½ years ago — and told them she had been raped only an hour earlier?

A full and timely investigation might have, at the very least, spared young Jameis the embarrassment of publicly claiming that being falsely accused of rape is a violent act of victimization equivalent to being raped oneself. (Yeah — but no, Jameis. Just no.)


Um. Here ya go, Strawman Rape Denier. (And thank you, Jessica Luther, for making my job so much easier!)]

Just keeping you informed about my upcoming intentions.
Just keeping you informed about my intentions.

What does it take for people to believe survivors? I ask again. While Bill Cosby may present an extreme case, the violent aggression and entitlement that supported his predatory behavior occurred not in the unknowable cesspool of a single diseased mind (well — not only) but within a set of cultural norms that encourage and protect such acts, especially for celebrities. [And before you even open your mouth, Strawman Rape Denier, two words: DARREN. SHARPER.]

Continue reading “In which I decide I need to SAY IT AGAIN.”

On Jackie, UVA, and Why #IDon’tStandWith Rolling Stone as a Mouthpiece for Survivor Stories

I collect stories written by rape survivors. I find the details and textures of first-person accounts powerful antidotes to the homogenized, not-to-mention ubiquitous, stories offered up by media and the entertainment industry alike. Women and men who endure sexual violence — whether they choose to reveal their experiences or not — are all warriors, in my book.

(They are also, every last one, bad victims. In case you were curious.)

I know firsthand how the act of telling our own stories can be uplifting, healing, empowering, fraught, challenging, righteous, risky…and not the right choice for every person. The decision to reveal — including every what, how, and why of that disclosure — must lie with the survivor. I feel twitchy, not-to-mention occasionally stabby, at any indication that a particular survivor’s story has been taken out of hir hands to serve someone else’s agenda. Even an ostensibly well-intentioned agenda. (I am choosing the word survivor deliberately, by the way, though not to indicate self-disclosure as some empowered butterfly state that inevitably follows that of being a speechless victim. Simply put: the raped-and-then-murdered/suicided among us have not tongue left with which to speak their truths.)

So when I heard last month about Rolling Stone‘s immediately-viral blockbuster reporting of campus rape, which centered on the violent gang rape of a student identified by the pseudonym ‘Jackie,’ my skin began to crawl. When The Washington Post and others began to take issue with journalistic standards not met in the reporting — and the magazine’s initial response was to place all blame on Jackie herself (the statement by editor Will Dana has since been emended to remove the line about how they had “misplaced” their trust in her) — my skin crawled completely off. When I heard how Jackie ultimately asked to have her story taken out of the final article and Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely ran with it anyway — and then “was Jackie lying, yes or no” became a dominant discussion point in mainstream reporting — at that point, well…

According to its last postcard, my skin has boarded a bus and is now halfway to Puerta Vallarta.

Continue reading “On Jackie, UVA, and Why #IDon’tStandWith Rolling Stone as a Mouthpiece for Survivor Stories”

Let us now debate the nuances of kale; or, My feminism is not kind.

First things first: My feminism is not nice.

No one thinks of writing “Always stay sweet!” on the back page of my feminism’s yearbook.

My feminism is a grown-ass warrior with stretch marks and tits that drag almost to the ground. Her hair hangs in greasy knots that she shoves behind her ears. Her breath is foul, and I think she might have filed points into her teeth.

My feminism uses filthy language. She fights just as dirty, with up-close punches to the throat and a knee to the groin. She will break joints in your fingers. She fights every fight as if her life is on the line.

I’m not sure I want to convince her otherwise.

What I am sure of: neither she nor I is overly interested in making “I am a feminist” a comfortable and inviting space to people who would not otherwise choose to affiliate with our kind.

This may or may not be your feminism. That’s fine. That’s between you and yours, and I have no interest in policing. 

But if my feminism scares you, that’s probably because she should.


Second things second: Earlier this month, TIME magazine released a poll of “words to ban in 2015.” The word choices included: bae, basic, bossy, disrupt, feminist, I can’t even, influencer, kale, literally, om nom nom nom, obvi, said no one ever, sorry not sorry, turnout, and yaaasssss.

Continue reading “Let us now debate the nuances of kale; or, My feminism is not kind.”

I’m only gonna say this once, so LISTEN CLOSELY.

[TW for discussion of sexual assault. Most of these links, too, I’m betting. Also: adult language.]

Didja hear about the rape/sexual assault/incest allegations that have been raised about your beloved actor-slash-TV dad/singer/writer/other writer’s husband/other actor-slash-TV dad/director/other director/radio personality? And when you did, whom did you believe?

If you gave credence to the survivors, then we’re good. You can sit this one out. You’re not who I’m talking to.

If, on the other hand, you found yourself thinking, “Wow, I sure hope that’s not true. Of course, there’s no real way to know, so best to remain skeptical. Maybe there was just some miscommunicationI have a lot of questions for those people claiming to have been attacked. I mean, they hardly behaved like Real Victims™. And how terrible for him, if he’s being falsely accused. I’m stumped…but there does seem to be some ‘palpable bitchery’ going onI mean, why didn’t they just speak up at the time? They shoulda reported that to the police, if it really happened. ‘Innocent before proven guilty’ and all…” —I have one message for you:


Continue reading “I’m only gonna say this once, so LISTEN CLOSELY.”

But All of the Survivors Are Brave [UPDATED]

[UPDATE, 12/6/14: I have added links with updates to the Marissa Alexander and Janay Rice stories at the end of the post.]

[TW for discussion and stock photos of domestic violence]

Lemme start with the obvious: one of the more persistent — and corrosive — tropes in the American imaginary positions white men as neutral Human, the default, the ideal from which the rest of us depart in our own varied, marked ways. The more one deviates from this Default Human — the more “deviant” one is — the less one gets recognized, or has their needs and issues attended to. Black feminist authors Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith pointed to this problem in the title of their 1982 book: All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men but Some of Us are Brave.

I work very hard to keep this awareness at the forefront of my thinking: that the sexism and misogyny that I experience — and thus rail about most loudly — function not simply as an attack upon my gender but upon my raced gender. As a white woman (who also generally passes as straight), I am keenly aware of being at the top of the heap, when it comes to most sexual and gender-based violence.

To be clear, I’m not claiming #SurvivorPrivilege as some great shakes, or saying “if I had to be abused by my husband, at least I got to be beaten-while-white!” More like:

Continue reading “But All of the Survivors Are Brave [UPDATED]”